Le Chat

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A photo from a long time ago at art school in France, sitting in the sunshine with one of the stray cats of the village. My mom has been giving us our old things that still take up space in her house–books, art work, old photos–and she gave this to me a few months ago. Glancing at it tonight I remembered that while I was there, I wrote and hand-bound a children’s book about a cat, which may have been titled simply Le Chat. I’d learned enough of the language to write it in French. I wish I remembered more about the story. As I always did with my art, I gave the book away to a friend. It’s one of the few things I wish I’d kept, tucked away in my suitcase and saved for my daughter. Anyway, it got me thinking that’s one of the things on my list this year, to write a children’s book.

(Post 357 of 365)

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Ode to April: 88/365

I am impatient for leaves on the maple. I resent the forsythia for being the only bright color in the yard. April, the month of almost-there.

But the birds are singing in the stark branches. And it’s warm enough in the sun.

Also, I lied about there only being forsythia. A few dandelions and daffodils stretch up determined and hardy. There’s the creeping phlox and a few grape hyacinth whose purple bells are quickly plucked and shredded by little toddler hands.

The cats are happy explorers in the brambles out back.

We’ve had to keep our Easter butterflies longer than usual because of the cool weather. Today seemed like the right day to release them. One butterfly stayed for a bit, sunning himself. And Isabella spoke to him, a sweet farewell.

Digging in the Dirt: 83/365

We wake in the dark at 5:00 am and my head is still heavy with migraine. Toward breakfast the day reveals itself as grey gloom. This is how April always feels, like a big grey headache. Stark branches waiting for green. Strained sun. Mud.

But later on we find organic potting soil and compost on sale and walk out of the store into a bright afternoon.

At home we gather garden tools and I hack at the dirt, clearing old roots and tilling the soil while Isabella digs with her shovel. We leave the back door open. Two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard. They chase birds and squirrels and crouch beneath the arborvitaes and roll in the grass.

It’s not warm out, but Isabella is barefoot, pressing down the dirt with tiny toes. I mix the wildflower seeds with dry compost and rake them into the bed. There are hummus sandwiches, cat chases, a rest on the rock. Dirt on our cheeks and noses and under our fingernails. I find the watering can and fill it. Dig up another bed, plant sunflower seeds, the Mammoth Russian variety, along the side of the house.

Isabella blows bubbles, hair falling across her face, sun streaming through the maple branches, cats leaping after bubbles. She says, “come sit with me, mama” and “I love helping you, mama.” I sit down next to her and she leans against me and we smile into each other’s eyes.

On the back steps, inside this April afternoon, we are tucked in the space of dreams, a flash forward I conjured three years ago in wishes and prayers and daydreams, wondering if it would ever come true. Here we are, together, as if by magic, caked with dirt, smiling. The spectacular ordinariness of us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indoor/Outdoor: 47/365

In the golden late afternoon light we dig in the dirt. Chris does most of the shoveling and Isabella works with her sifter and pails making little contributions to the wheelbarrow. I work in the bed around the maple tree, raking and grading the hauls of dirt. I press it down with my boots, doing a little two-step to the music. The squirrels come to say hello. We’ve been keeping them fat with bird seed and apple peels. I look up and see the cats watching us from the backdoor, bathing in the bright sunlight. Bali, the little one, for once isn’t scratching to get out. The air is cool and smells of earth. That kitty would love to be out playing in it. And I feel a real heartache.

We moved into our house in August. Before that, we had a second floor apartment with a porch, Bali’s favorite spot. She would hunt birds from her perch, roll around in the sun, curl up on the ledge, and a few times, she jumped. Now we have a big backyard, and she darts from the backdoor to the window itching to run after the squirrels and birds. But we also live on a main road and people drive twice the speed limit. The previous homeowners lost a cat to a speeding driver. We tried a leash, but she wriggled free. Cats aren’t made for leashes. I’ve been stuck in the house so much this month with sickness making the rounds, I’m going stir crazy. I think of her never getting outside and think about how unfair it is, unhealthy really. I’m struggling with this one, whether to keep her safe or set her free.

Snow: 4/365

It’s finally here, the first real snow, a blizzard with big wind gusts and swirling flakes. Drifts on the front porch. The mute grey sky. Cats curled up. Baby napping. Chris clapping out wood and re-stacking the pile. I got the fire going again. Crackle, hiss.

I love the peacefulness of snow, the way it makes everything quiet. No cars, no sounds. That tucked-in, hunkered-down feeling. It throws a blanket over everything, even the chatter of anxiety, my frequent companion.

That’s something I’ve realized about this daily practice. Just four days in, and it’s already redirecting my thoughts. It forces focus. It quiets the swirl of rumination. It brings peacefulness too.